Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tonight's TV Talk: 'Switched at Birth', 'New Girl', 'Ringer', 'Raising Hope', and 'Southland'...

TV Talk for Tuesday, January 31st 2012

Switched at Birth (ABC Family, 8pm) - S1, Ep15: "Expulsion from the Garden of Eden" - Oh, Regina (Constance Marie), no. But oh Emmett's dad, yes. Your girlfriend may be hippie-dippy, but she's a fast talker, and she says inappropriate things when she gets nervous, and suddenly I understand where Emmett (Sean Berdy) gets his attraction to Bay (Vanessa Marano); he learned it from watching you! But that also means he learned his tolerance toward speaking people-- or people that are otherwise different-- from you, too. Every high school relationship needs to be mature enough to have the "vegetable" conversation that Emmett and Bay did-- hell, every relationship needs to be able to talk about intimate, touchy subjects. The older we get, the less of a chance of encountering "vegetables," but other issues come into play, and we need to have that inhibited ability to talk openly about them. Daphne (Katie Leclerc) has it in drips-- mostly when she's angry-- which I guess is a start. Wilke (Austin Butler) may not be a man-slut, but he is less than imaginative. Daphne calling him out on his recycling of dates was a start, but we've seen her clam up, pouting, and unable to better express herself when the situation is more serious. John (D.W. Moffett) and Kathryn (Lea Thompson) are going to encounter that soon, it appears. This reporter seemed to be a passing problem-- not really an obstacle but a mistake John may have made once upon a time. The fact that she physically resurrected in this episode was worrisome, even without the P.I. digging into the Kennishes' lives. I know parents are human, especially on TV, but this plot point felt like it came out of nowhere. There were literally no indicators that John was as douchey as Joe McCoy, and I don't want to believe that will change. I don't think he's still having an affair with her, but it seems pretty evident he once did. That whole "killing a book" story? Meh, seemed too easy. Especially because the girls have one crap dad in the mix with Angelo (Gilles Marini) and his terrible inflectioned-kiss-assery but very real fugitive status. Nothing is ever Angelo's fault, right? Ugh, I'd deport him. Simply because he can't deliver one sincere line in a believable way. I'll forgive a lot of things when a package is pretty, but that-- let's just say I'm glad Grandma had him deported.

New Girl (FOX, 9pm) - S1, Ep11: "Jess & Julia" - Oh man, I've always loved Lizzy Caplan but putting her on a couch next to Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and having her judge Jess' "cupcakes and breaking for birds and little birdies helping you get dressed in the morning" made me love her even more. When Caplan got cast, I was concerned it was just going to be Nick (Jake Johnson) trying, perhaps subconsciously, to mask his attraction for Jess by dating a girl who looks a LOT like her. You know, the whole Russ/Ross situation. But I'm glad she called out Jess' behavior because it's something that has been bothering me from day one. Jess is a cartoon character. No, it doesn't automatically mean she's not smart or strong or complicated, but she certainly doesn't feel real. Or smart or strong. She still feels like one of those girls who puts on a voice and puts on an act to get attention-- to get boys to like her or whatever. And I end up wanting to slap those girls. She maybe an acquired taste for some, like Julia, but for me? No bueno; it's just another case of a show where I dislike the protagonist and therefore can never full get into/enjoy watching because episodes are bound to be centered on her. Though Jess did have one valid point: not being a dessert person is fundamentally strange. I think Julia is a good match for Winston (Lamorne Morris), though. Somehow the quiet guy we know next to nothing about has emerged as the most mature in that apartment. He made his mistakes, but he owned up to them (and his shortcomings) on his own. He took a step in the right (growth) direction. If he hadn't, there literally would have been no use for him, so I'm glad he finally got to do that-- or at least, do something. And Schmidt (Max Greenfield) constantly just being Schmidt was perfect. And I would love to listen to him and June Raphael (good job for introducing her as Jess' friend before the big stunt-y plot point with Nick becoming her OB-GYN patient, by the way)-- about anything. Something tells me those two can riff off each other for hours and make it twisted and hilarious.

Ringer (The CW, 9pm) - S1, Ep11: "It Just Got Normal" - Here's where I am perplexed: everything I enjoyed about this episode, I fear is only temporary. For example? The cliffhanger at the end. It was a HUGE improvement over the constant red herrings, and yet everything the executive producers have said means more red herrings to come. As ridiculous as it was that Henry (Kristoffer Polaha) would literally say the words "Who are you?" to Siobhan (Sarah Michelle Gellar), I also loved that he was being faced with potentially learning the truth. Because then it would actually, finally give him something to do. Additionally, I really enjoyed the integration of Malcolm (Mike Colter) into Siobette's world, though I fear it will lead him to stumble upon the truth of what Andrew (Ioan Gruffudd) is up to and therefore put him in danger. I also was really pleasantly surprised to have an answer about whether or not Juliet (Zoey Deutch) was actually assaulted by her teacher (Jason Dohring). I wasn't thrilled that she was, mind you-- oh, okay, that's not true. I was glad it wasn't just Juliet being a really bratty teenager and making up a story for attention. It seemed pretty clear that something unsavory transpired between the two-- Dohring's mouth-breathing shiftiness aside-- because of Juliet's jumpiness and sullenness during moments she thought eyes were not on her. But even that, judging from what the executive producers have said, may not turn out to be what it seems, and that severely bums me out. I am actually invested in these characters again, but I am completely fearful that the rug will be ripped out from under me. Madchen Amick, as the substitute Gemma, in particular worries me. The one who doesn't is Justin Bruening, whose character's name I have still failed to learn. He may be pretty, but thus far he's pretty damn dull and even more useless, especially considering he's all by his lonesome in Paris now. This episode did get me reinvested enough to tune in again, though, mainly because Siobhan is back in New York, stirring up trouble and actually getting things done. But I think it is one show that would be better suited on a network like Showtime, where it doesn't have to compromise in its darkness because that's where these characters thrive. And also where the network doesn't accommodate for stupidity of viewers by forcing terrible wigs on poor Gellar simply so we can tell the twins apart.

Raising Hope (FOX, 9:30pm) - S2, Ep12: "Gambling Again" - They used to just reference Friends but tonight I am sad to report they stole a joke from Friends. I guess it was bound to happen. Friends gave us ten years of great comic material, most of which was broad enough to be observed by other comedy writers. So when Jimmy (Lucas Neff) learned there was no 4-0-wonk, I couldn't laugh as hard as I wanted to. And then when Hope (Baylie and Rylie Cregut) was coaxed to say "penis," I couldn't help but she shades of the last Modern Family where Lily dropped the F-bomb. It probably wasn't intentional, but it still hurt. What saved it, though, was the dumb-assery of those in Gamblers' Anonymous. If they know they have bad luck and you'd make a fortune betting on the other team from the one they would normally pick, uh, why don't they just do that? It's the opposite of instincts scenario, and of course it's bound to shoot them in the foot eventually, but hey, we could all use a little quick and easy cash, right? And when we get obsessive-- over anything-- we all need friends to reel us back to reality. Seriously, Virginia (Martha Plimpton), pig figurines? How about updated appliances or something else to make your life easier? Or just some more adorable costumes for Hope. Because Hope really IS the best actress around!

Southland (TNT, 10pm) - S4, Ep3: "Community" - I am severely impressed that the viral video of Ben (Ben McKenzie) wasn't just him punching the girl. Maybe I underestimated the youth of L.A., but I assumed they'd edit it down to ignore the provocation and just make him look like an a-hole. That would have gone viral faster. But seriously, how do you get something to go viral? The most hits my videos get are about 15,000-- and that still takes weeks. But I digress. Between his angry outburst and his almost sex tape, though, I guess my original season theory that he was going to climb the political chain of the force was completely wrong. Even if he wanted to now, he's not a good candidate for it. Kind of a bummer. I liked the idea of this young, atypical uniform challenging things. I'm going to admit it: I don't respect a lot of real cops. I've seen too much bad behavior in police squads-- too much entitlement and ego because of the "big stick and big gun" mentality. But I really respect the cops on this show, and fictional or not, I think they're wearing me down on real LAPD. When Sammy (Shawn Hatosy) made the decision to leave an area unprotected even though he knew it was about to erupt in a gang war, I didn't see a lazy cop wanting the bad guys to do his job for him; I didn't even see a guy hiding behind a badge, too afraid of doing any real work. I understood his plight and exactly what about the job is so frustrating and why these guys get so jaded in the first place. I didn't necessarily agree with his decision, but I saw it was the right one for him-- lest he wile out and react in a way that would really explode YouTube. That community took care of itself in the end. It may seem like one thug is in charge for awhile, demanding special treatment, but everyone else around and under that one person is rallying, and the minute he or she exposes a vulnerability, they will seize the opportunity. There's always strength in numbers. You can ask that gang-banger or that child molester. No, wait, you can't; they're both dead now. My point has been proven. I also don't respect procedurals, but this is a complex crime drama-- and tonight it proved that more than ever before with the parallels between Ruben (Dorian Missick) prepping for one family tradition while Tang (Lucy Liu) and Cooper (Michael Cudlitz) found themselves in the middle of a family's clashing over another one, in addition to just the sheer volume of calls we watched the officers take. As usual, some were absurd-- to the point where laughing at the situation didn't feel quite right and yet I was grateful for a lighter moment to break the tension nonetheless-- but all were poignant. This is the sharpest written series on television right now, though I have to say I hope we see a return to some of these characters' off-duty lives soon. We hear snippets when they're in the car with each other, but for example, I just don't buy that Cooper isn't feel residual affects from his addiction, let alone his back problems, and I don't want to see the show ignoring that for an abundance of cool cases instead. If anyone can juggle and balance, I know Southland can!

My Love Letter To NBC...

I'm going to come out and admit something kind of unprofessional* right now, but I'm kind of beyond caring. Half of the job as a writer is to have opinions and to share them with readers, and it would be lying to say otherwise. I'm allowed to play favorites, damn it! And NBC was, is, and always will be my jam.

That's right; I said it. And you can say what you want to about some of their content in recent years-- you can say a lot about the ratings. But I can't speak to that; I can't speak for anyone but me, and the type of programming that has always called out to me has been on NBC.

When I was a kid, I literally grew up with Friends. That may sound like a cliche but considering I was ten when it premiered, it is the best example of not only the network at its best but my deep devotion to it. Along with Days of our Lives, which may be another animal since it is daytime, Friends was the show that inspired me to begin writing my own scripts, and when I finally started writing pilot scripts of my own, I'd do so with visions of one day working on future episodes of that show from a corner office at 3000 W. Alameda Avenue.

NBC was always the network I watched and wanted to work for, and nowadays I am sad to admit NBC is not the network I watch the most, although the shows I do watch there-- from Community to Smash to Parenthood-- I enjoy more than any other, on almost any other network. I believe Bob Greenblatt when he says he is looking to slowly rebuild, taking chances on new programming by building off existing tent poles. I believe he knows you need that one big one to spark the interest again-- to get people to notice NBC again (in a positive way)-- to open the door to allow more and more of that smart, cutting edge, different programming.

I believe Smash can be that for NBC. I hope Smash can be that for NBC. And I think so far the pilot pick-ups indicate they are committed and focused in that direction. Though I was not necessarily interested in the subject matter behind Bad Girls, the John Wells drama NBC just picked up today, I am intrigued by the fact that they are willing to take such a risk. Wells himself has said that he didn't think he'd be able to sell E.R. today-- to NBC or any network-- but arguably Bad Girls is a much riskier move, and NBC just proved willing to take the chance. A show set in a female prison is edgy and dark by design and sounds like something fitting for Showtime. Dare I say NBC might finally be following in David Nevins' footsteps?

Admittedly NBC has been notorious for dumbing down content to try to fit their demographic bubble-- look at how they watered down comediennes Whitney Cummings and Chelsea Handler for their sitcoms-- so of course if they can do right by Wells remains to be seen. Not to mention the fact that a pilot pick-up does not infer a series pick-up at upfronts' time in May. But they have a good history together, so I am choosing to remain optimistic this time around. Not simply for Wells but for the future of smart television in general. I so want people to once again understand why NBC is at the top of my own network pitch list.

*All views expression on Made Possible by Pop Culture are my own and do not necessarily reflect the viewers of any of the publications that employ me or purchase my reviews, interviews, or news items. Made Possible by Pop Culture is, and always was, a personal blog.

From LA Examiner: 'SMASH'!; 'Gossip Girl' Revealed!?; Love And Stuff in 'Suburgatory'; 'New Girl' Nabs Ryan Kwanten; Advance Review of 'The River'...

"Mid-Season Preview: NBC's Smash"

Entertainment Weekly stole our opening line by deeming NBC’s new musical drama, Smash, “glee for grown-ups” in their February 3rd issue, but it’s absolutely true and therefore the perfect way to explain the series’ style and tone. Whether you grew up with the bright lights of 42nd Street just a subway stop or two away, or if you sang along to cassette tapes and CDs of Disney princesses belting out ballads for their (eventually) betrothed, chances are, you can’t ignore the gaping musical hole in more modern pop culture. Smash is a mature answer to teens prancing and belting about puppy love while still intertwining big, bold production numbers with emotional drama of characters’ personal lives and relationships... [MORE]

"Gossip Girl reveals its title character!? Plus, fallout from Blair’s decision"

If you haven’t watched the 100th episode of Gossip Girl yet, then stop reading right now and run to your DVR. A lot of $#!+ went down! ... [MORE]

"Emily Kapnek previews: Love is in the air on Suburgatory!"

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and you know what that means? Lots of love and hook-ups coming to television! Perhaps most notably, relationships will be tested and potentially taken to the next level on Suburgatory-- at least, that’s what series creator Emily Kapnek teased when LA TV Insider Examiner caught up with her on her Los Angeles set earlier this month... [MORE]

"PHOTO PREVIEW: New Girl picks up Ryan Kwanten"

If you were single on Valentine's Day for the first time in years, what would your plans for the evening be? We might slip on our comfiest pjs and curl up with some rom-coms and take-out, but that's ripe with dark humor, not exactly the kind of laughs for which FOX' New Girl is known. So when Jess (Zooey Deschanel) finds herself in exactly that situation in their own "Valentine's Day" episode, she heads straight to the bar and picks up...special guest star True Blood's Ryan Kwanten... [MORE]

"Mid-Season Preview: ABC’s The River"

It may be filmed in the same area in Hawaii, but ABC’s new paranormal drama, The River, is not going to be the next LOST. Nor should you want it to be. In fact, it’s much more The Walking Dead than LOST-- or anything else, for that matter. Where LOST was all about unfolding a little bit of mystery at a time-- giving you a tease of an answer while revealing three new questions in a greater mythology, The River is much simpler than that: a search for one man, lost but presumed dead, while filming down in the Amazon. The River relies on highly stylized shocks and scares, but through its documentary style, wants to keep its audience in the middle of the action, rather than high and mightily above it, trying to suss out a greater meaning behind it all. The River is all about just trying to survive when you find yourself in a situation far worse than you ever could have imagined-- about what you can do when the rescue mission you thought you were embarking on becomes about rescuing yourselves instead-- and from forces unknown at that... [MORE]

Monday, January 30, 2012

Tonight's TV Talk: 'Gossip Girl', 'Alcatraz', and 'Hart of Dixie'...

TV Talk for Monday, January 30th 2012

Gossip Girl (The CW, 8pm) - S5, Ep13: "G.G." - Okay, look, I have to start with the reveal at the end here simply because if you title your episode this way-- an episode that everyone assumes is going to be focused heavily on a wedding-- suspicions are already raised. I know last week I said I was thinking Dan (Penn Badgley) was behind Gossip Girl, and I was half kidding when I said it, but I honestly never (until she showed up tonight) even considered Georgina (Michelle Trachtenberg). Maybe I'm short-sighted; maybe I underestimated her; maybe I just didn't think outside of the box enough. Whatever. I would like to put it out there now that I'm not convinced she has been Gossip Girl the whole time (um, five years ago she would have been what, sixteen? I can't imagine she was wielding so much power while cramming for trig or whatever). I believe she seized the opportunity when Gossip Girl went silent and decided to take over. I guess only time will tell, though... Okay, so now getting back to the episode in chronological order, I would be remiss if I didn't express my hatred for the opening dream sequence. Blake Lively did a fine job of lip-syncing and learning the original Marilyn choreography (though there is only one Marilyn on my TV, and it's Kat McPhee!!!), but I generally don't like dream sequences when they are random, out of context, and serve as elaborate fantasies where production can go over the top or think outside their own box and do something they've never done before. It simply wasn't necessary. Especially considering to everyone but Serena (Lively) it was obvious Dan was going to choose Blair (Leighton Meester) over her anyway. It was a fun four minutes, but it was four minutes that could have been plucked from the show with no consequences. Anyway, I digress. I have never been quiet about my hatred of Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick) and my even bigger disdain for Chuck and Blair. Say what you want about "tempestuous" relationships, but Chuck has been abusive toward Blair in the past, and she has let him. Now to see her mother was letting him, too? Reformed for the moment or not, I literally could not believe my eyes when she showed up in Chuck's apartment. And not just because when you are so rich you have an elevator that opens directly in your apartment, you also have a doorman downstairs who has to confirm with you the arrival of every guest. I'm glad she could see her daughter wasn't happy and didn't truly want to get married, and I'm glad she thought she should do something about it. But the problem with these Upper Whatever Side mothers is that they never do the right thing; they never start a dialogue. Whether those two things are mutually exclusive... She basically sealed Blair's fate by bringing Chuck there, though I did appreciate the "twist" at the end where he stood in the back of the church and waited for Blair to stand up for herself. Because it really was Blair who had to make the decision and make the move (Gossip Girl didn't need to point it out; it was evident on everyone's faces; I wish this show would trust their actors to deliver more, rather than relying on exposition to drive home a point). She's a true battered woman. She's too passive. She stays in relationships long after they sour, even though she acknowledges what she is giving up and the pain she may be in. I just want to shake some sense into her. She is young; she is pretty; she has money. There is no reason she should resign herself to be trapped in some ways. And no, I do not think running off with Dan at the last possible second was a way to get out of that trap. She said "I do." By law, she has signed the contract. And Louis (Hugo Becker) is not going to let her back out now, though he may have had no say if she never re-entered that church. He grew half-balls tonight, you guys. He took control of one aspect of his life-- it's a start-- and he finally, finally became interesting. I'm sick of seeing Blair treated so crappily by guys, but I certainly do like when these too-good-to-be-true-CW guys go dark!

Alcatraz (FOX, 9pm) - S1, Ep4: "Cal Sweeney" - I'm sorry, but it would have been so much more fitting if Cal Sweeney tried to rob a bank by visiting his safety deposit box and was told that it's 2012 and those are obsolete. Because it is 2012, and I really don't understand why anyone would choose to keep their valuables away from them anyway-- not when home safes and security systems are as advanced as they are. Anyway, four episodes in, and I've finally put my finger on just what it is about Alcatraz that feels a bit off. In procedurals, there are usually two central investigator/officer type characters flanked by three or four barely supporting players to fill out scenes, provide back-up and occasionally lighten the mood. In Alcatraz, each of its three "main" cast feels like those supporting players, with the inmate of the week being the primary, though rotating, person of importance. And the actually surrounding "extras?" Just laughable. The woman who came home to find her husband had been murdered? Her over-the-top screaming reaction wasn't even something I'd expect in a C-level slasher flick! Four episodes in, and Rebecca (Sarah Jones), Emerson (Sam Neill), and even Doc (Jorge Garcia) would be considered underused if their characters weren't so dull and almost unnecessary. Sure, they need to hunt down these inmates, but it feels like they're just going through the motions, not really believing they're a match for the worst of the bad guys that have returned, and the fact that the guy always gets locked up at the end of the hour, well, that just feels like a bit of movie magic. I don't want to say the performances are being phoned in, but I definitely feel like the character development is, and the actors aren't going above and beyond what's on the page to seed their roles with more interesting flavor or indicators of what's to come. Probably because they have no idea what's to come because the show has been changed so many times, they're just trying to fly under the radar now. Which is unfortunate because where the show excels is with the bad guys that it doesn't necessarily create but simply appropriates from history. Those tales are fascinating, complex, and darker than anything we've seen on a network procedural in a long time. Sweeney finding that tiny pressure point at the base of the brain to silently kill the tellers? So smart and done as just the tip of the iceberg, whereas so many other procedurals would build the whole episode around that tiny, simple plot point. They speak directly to my love of true crime, but since the story is not theirs, and since it is obvious my time with each bad guy will be so limited, all Alcatraz makes me want to do is pick up a history book instead of tune back in next week.

Hart of Dixie (The CW, 9pm) -S1, Ep12: "Mistresses & Misunderstandings" - I'm just going to say it: I don't know which night sounded more fun: hanging with Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson) during girls' night or Wade (Wilson Bethel) and Lavon (Cress Williams) during their weird private investigating! On one hand, she loves smart comedies; she knows what defines "good" pizza; and of course, the girl talk. But on the other hand, two hot dudes in soft cashmere sweaters... The only evening that didn't look fun at all was George (Scott Porter) and Lemon (Jaime King)'s Pictionary game. No offense to George, whose victory dance was quite amusing, but they are an old married couple before they even walked down the aisle. And their communication really is lacking if George really had no idea that Lemon tried to lose on purpose to avoid his victory dance. Can I be honest? George's victory dance was the happiest I've seen him with Lemon; why would she want to take that away from him!? He never gets to let loose with her; she is just so rigid. It's really a wonder the mistress in this title wasn't his. Though it was adorable that Zoe was the real mistress in question. Everything she was doing sneaking around with AnnaBeth (Kaitlyn Black) was so mundane and yet so scandalous to this little town of gossips. It was interesting commentary. Just imagine how their heads would have exploded if they had been carrying on some kind of secret affair. Personally I think she's a better catch than Judson (Wes Brown). Mostly because his name is Judson. But mostly, I was just glad Zoe has a friend and is settling in. There has been so much talk over which guy is right for her, but that's kind of narrow-minded. A woman is not nothing without a man, but without friends...well, that's when she may certainly lack. And Zoe and AnnaBeth make a good pair; the former inspires the latter to stand up for herself and be herself, while the latter inspires the former to be less of a hard-ass. Could you have ever imagined her Lemon impression otherwise? But Zoe's meant to be a lone wolf, I guess-- something that wasn't really surprising but still disappointing nonetheless. AnnaBeth was right: people will talk, and she's still Bluebell born and raised to the point of caring that people talk. She was right; they couldn't be public friends just yet, but as much as I never advocate for hiding who you really are, I hoped they would at least hang out in secret some more, especially after Zoe took one for the team for her. Just like how I think Wade and George have the best relationship on the show, this could have been a nice female counterpart. And Zoe was right, too, though: Wade was being an infant. He's a grown man, and he's playing "make the girl who doesn't notice me jealous" game like a sixth grader. Bless his heart, he's a little bit broken, isn't he? Oh man, I SO have a type... And he was wrong: sometimes you do need a good girl friend to talk about the things you don't want to say to the guys who are your friends but who you still don't want to embarrass yourself in front of or be judged by. And he was also wrong when he took Lavon's advice and tried to "clean" up. His hair looked weird. And his shirt was too white. And also, he was wearing a shirt.

Riding The "Shit People Say" Wave...

Occasionally I get a good idea. More often than not, though, my ideas are inspired by someone else's. I have no shame in jumping on a bandwagon and putting my own spin on things. I'm always looking for something new to write, produce, and direct, but I find that most of my stories are too "big" for my means. They would take longer planning, much higher budgets, and more equipment/crew than just grabbing a camera and goofing off around the city with a friend or two, ala film school. I like immediate gratification, and honestly, in today's YouTube age, you need that, lest someone else do it first. Quality is important, but timing is absolutely crucial. So though I first rolled my eyes at the "too easy" trendy nature to the "Shit People Say" viral videos, I found a script pouring out of me nonetheless.

Sitting down with my writing partner, we spun my idea into two separate (but when held up side-by-side, ones that play off each other as responses) short videos that I jumped on the chance to actually produce, as a quick and easy (and let's face it, cheap) toe back into production. We need some more recent samples of what we can do for when we pitch our pilot(s), after all!

Today I present to you our contributions to the trend. Won't you help these go viral, too??

"Shit New Yorkers Say in L.A."

"Shit the Hollywood-Adjacent Say"

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tonight's TV Talk: 'Once Upon A Time', 'The Good Wife', 'Shameless', and 'House of Lies'...

TV Talk for Sunday, January 29th 2012

Once Upon A Time (ABC, 8pm) - S1, Ep11: "Fruit of the Poisonous Tree" - I am continuously impressed with the ambitious scope of this show, and this episode certainly feels like the one with the most occurring since the pilot. The first fifteen minutes went super fast, but admittedly, everything after that slowed considerably and almost disappointingly. Going into it, it was obvious we were going to learn more of Regina (Lana Parrilla)'s backstory as the Queen, through her relationship with Sidney (Giancarlo Esposito), but just how much we learned about him was unexpected. I knew the show was taking liberties with fairytale characters, but I didn't expect the Magic Mirror to have started out a Genie in a Bottle! And now I'm curious as to whether or not this Genie is *the* genie from Aladdin-- and whether or not his last remaining wish still exists in Storybrooke times... I also didn't expect to learn how unhappy Regina was with Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin)'s father (Richard Schiff). Maybe it was a mistake on my part, but I always assumed the reason she hated Snow White was because she loved her father so much but didn't get his full, undivided attention because his daughter was around. But now we're seeing that she not only felt trapped in her life in his kingdom but that he literally locked her in her chambers-- which makes her a much more sympathetic villain. And to realize she was planning to take her own life rather than off the king? Well, I severely underestimated her because I kept looking for signs she was manipulating the Genie into doing the deed for her, but she seemed pretty damn sincere. Tortured but sincere. Maybe she tricked me, but I really don't think so. When she told him to flee the kingdom because she didn't love him, she had tears in her eyes and had to steel herself before she turned around. And she accepted his wish and kept that mirror close when she could have chucked it. Maybe there was always a bit of perverse pleasure in trapping him the way she had once been trapped (it was a precursor to trapping her whole world, after all), but being stuck for so long will make a person that way, though-- the moment they get a taste of power and can break free, they may act out of fear of someday being right back where they started and so they do whatever it takes not to allow that. She had been hardened by her time in the kingdom, so it was an easy road to slide down, and it is exactly what she did. Her relationship with Sidney is much more complicated than we are allowed to know at this time. And I'm okay with still having some questions as to Regina's motives in the "real" world because having a henchman just made her a lot more interesting. She was already a fascinating study on her own, but relationships always draw me in faster than a single character. Along those lines, I was thrilled to get even a little taste of Mary Margaret (Goodwin) and David (Josh Dallas)'s relationship in this episode, too, though I have to admit, only one scene isn't going to be enough in the episodes to come. They are the only real relationship story, and fairytales are supposed to be able love and positivity, not anger and constant one-upping of each other. The love story is one that I am deeply invested in; in many ways I want this show to center on their romance even more than on the continuous back and forth between Regina and Emma (Jennifer Morrison). And to know that in this modern world, Snow White is not as "pure as snow" because she is committing adultery is adult and complex all on its own. I want to watch those two (re)fall in love, and one measly scene wasn't enough!

Oh, and Henry (Jared Gilmore) is right; you can write anywhere, so get ready, Regina; I'm moving to Storybrooke! Emma in a bright yellow Beetle? Not so good at being covert for Operation Cobra. I'm much more stealth!

The Good Wife (CBS, 9pm) - S3, Ep14: "Another Ham Sandwich" - I'm just going to come out and say it: Will (Josh Charles) is way more interesting when there's suspicion that he might be corrupt. And though I don't like the negative attention it is bringing to Lockhart-Gardner, nor the petty way the investigation started in the first place, I like that he was scrutinized and studied. He has always had a sense of entitlement around him indicative of most lawyers but which I felt he needed to shed to be worthy of Alicia (Julianna Margulies). I'm not saying this "wake up call" will do it, especially because he cockily maintained his innocence throughout, and there were no indicators that that would chance, but it made the story much juicier nonetheless. Watching Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) play the other side to stand by her (professional) man was Kalinda at her best, always coolly at least one step ahead of the opposing side. Watching Alicia take the stand was equally cool; she has come a long way since the first few episodes of the series, just trying to find her footing back in this legal world, and she retorted to Wendy (Anika Noni Rose)'s first few questions with pointed answers to show those strides-- to show she couldn't be walked all over. So when she still managed to be surprised by the personal questions, it was a moment that felt incredulously false, as if it was a device simply to show Cary (Matt Czuchry) stand up and be the good guy (no pun intended). Especially because then she stood up, walked out, and went back to projecting the same sense of entitlement Will has been exhibiting. "You're out of control"-- absolutely, Wendy was. But walking out of the courtroom because you disagree with a line of questioning? That is not how the law works, and just because Alicia is a lawyer, too, doesn't mean she gets to throw an (admittedly calm) diva fit when she's not getting her way. The truth, plain and simple, is that Alicia panicked. She sat in the stand and couldn't remain two steps ahead of Wendy's questions the way she thought she had been prepared to do, and she slipped on equal parts mama bear coat and loyal girlfriend hat and flailed. She really should have spoken to her kids sooner, and she really shouldn't spend so much energy focused on protecting Will when clearly he hasn't been extending her the same courtesy. Can Carrie Preston stay? She is a bright light (not just because of her hair) in what has become a stuffy firm with the defection of Blake Calamar (Scott Porter) to the south. I'd also like Amy Sedaris to stick around. The sexual chicken Eli (Alan Cumming) played with her was kind of adorable, especially when neither one of them caved but it was clear she was still playing him nonetheless. The dance they do is wry and witty and ripe with tension, and I think they make a good match for each other professionally, as well as with the potential for personally. I'd like to see how it all plays out. It took half a season, but I finally think The Good Wife is back to where it was at the end of season two-- strength and tone-wise. So welcome back, The Good Wife I knew and loved (and missed)!

Shameless (SHO, 9pm) - S2, Ep4: "A Beautiful Mess" - Fiona (Emmy Rossum) may have once been a track star, but what really saved her hide was her dad, Frank (William H. Macy), willing to take her in and hide her from her affair's wife-- and who would have ever thought it would come to that, right? Certainly not me. What I always loved about Fiona was how she managed to be the moral center of the Gallagher family-- the proof that you don't have to give into your nature or your nurture. But her hiding under the table with Frank was TV gold, even if it wasn't the wake-up call she really needed before she set even farther down her self-destructive path. So far everything always seems to work out for Frank, even though he in no way deserves it (seriously, I was so happy to see how well Sheila was doing, yet I know that with the plane crash she will be way worse than ever before), so Fiona's bad behavior will probably be rewarded, too. I'm less annoyed about that since I believe hers is just a temporary lapse in judgment; she has worked so hard to not give in to what she fears is inevitable because of the Gallagher blood and name, but when you squeeze so tightly, you break. I'm not sure how to feel about Kevin (Steve Howey) pushing Ethel (Madison Davenport) and Malik (Justin Mitchell) together, though. It's cute that he wants her to be a normal kid, but hanging out with a teenage father is hardly normal, and clearly Malik has some baby mama drama coming with him. On one hand, clearly she and Debbie (Emma Kenney) need to pawn the babies off on the adults-by-numbers and have a girl's night. Not a full-on sleepover as Fiona suggested because clearly that wasn't exactly stress-free. It was so sad to see Debbie trying to fit in with a girl she is heads and shoulders above-- especially after she pointed out that Fiona has a small social circle (and Fiona's expanding of it is proving just as detrimental). I guess it's true that insecurities and desire to be the cool kid-- or at least seen as such-- can strike everyone, but it hit harder to see young Debbie as such a typical tween-- chasing the "bad boy" with no interest in her, blind to the affections of her loyal friend. She would have been better off just going about her young adult way as head of the daycare, scratching at the stress rash on her arm. She has friends; aside from Ethel they're just not her age. It could be worse. She could be conforming, which she will be doing if she follows in Fiona's footsteps. Fiona was always marching to her own drum, when compared with Frank, but she, too, seems too willing to go along with Jasmine (Amy Smart)'s hair-brained sugar daddy schemes. After last year's Eddie suicide, I've come to expect a death per season on this show, and I'm putting it out there now: it better be Jasmine ODing. And everyone's talking about Karen (Laura Slade Wiggins)'s bombshell reveal at the end of the episode, but I'm not so sure it's shocking. I was wondering why she was so eager to turn over a new leaf, and a pregnancy is the only thing other than an STD to wake someone up to the consequences of their promiscuous behavior. In the British series Karen is married with a kid, so clearly this one's just playing catch up. But the real question is: is Frank or Lip (Jeremy Allen White) the father?? Either way, I don't think Lip can handle it right now-- the way he is going after Jody (Zach McGowan) is borderline obsessive with no markers to suggest Jody really is anything other than a messed up man. Messed up does not inherently mean suspicious, and if Lip doesn't dig up something real soon, he's going to shatter; he has already exhibited cracks in his own downward spiral.

House of Lies (SHO, 10pm) - S1, Ep4: "Mini Mogul" - The duo of Clyde (Ben Schwartz) and Doug (Josh Lawson) is always mocking and fun, and in a lot of ways I want to just watch these two at work-- well, not their actual work but going out, trying to pick up women (I can't see past the Jean-Ralphio in Schwartz to believe his Clyde really gets as many women as he claims), ribbing on each other (or at least the former ribbing on the latter), etc. I love them playing off each other so much I am even willing to look past the ridiculousness that the ENTIRE pod always travels together for these meetings that really only one or two people are needed for. This particular "case" especially seemed light on the work and more on the billable hours for fluff. While I think it was terrible judgment for Marty (Don Cheadle) to bring his son along on a work trip, especially with guys like Clyde talking about his "numbers" with bedding women openly and crudely, I absolutely love any interaction between father and son. Young Roscoe (Donis Leonard Jr.) saves this show for me, and if it weren't for him, I wouldn't find anything human or relateable about Marty, pilot realization of potentially not being a good person aside. There was something sweet about him seeing past the loser label his dad gave Doug to trust him for some advice, even if it was kind of generic and useless advice. I also don't particularly like Jeannie (Kristen Bell). Who wouldn't want to marry Michael Rady!? And that's coming from someone who loves Nick Stahl. If she doesn't, she should have the balls enough to break it off with him like a mature person, instead of just pulling her ring off her finger and be just another fast-talking scumbag at any turn. She certainly straps on the balls when she needs them professionally, anyway. Personally I think Jeannie may be harboring some girl-on-girl tendencies anyway; I don't buy she's just "one of the guys" when it comes to talking sex and looking at nude photos/videos on cell phones. She is clearly messed up about her life, so who's to say she's not questioning her sexuality? Or maybe I just want to make her more interesting because right now she's kind of a cliche. And I am kind of a moron when it comes to music, but did Nick Stahl have Jeannie strip to his own music? Because that is a loser move. Even if he did peg her (no pun intended) to a T.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cutting Room Floor Commentary: Zachary Levi on Life Post-'Chuck' and Creating His Own Content...

Chuck came to a close on Friday. Five years, done in an instant. For Zachary Levi, it was a series that launched him as a star and also made nerds the new cool kids, which, really, was the best of both worlds for the thespian who is also a huge technology buff. While the "end of the era," so to speak, has is surreal and sad for the fans, oddly, the actors don't find it all that scary-- even though Levi joked that he "doesn't have millions of dollars" just squirreled away and therefore is already looking for his next gig. But why not just create the perfect next job just for himself? Hey, if Joey Tribbiani was going to do it... Let's just say, I have much more faith in Levi! The man will one take take over the world. He's just starting with Hollywood.

Zachary Levi: I love technology. I’m also frightened by technology. I think the next five years of our lives are going to be insane. Then the next five years after that are going to fucking just freak people out. But I also have just so much passion for it. And I look at technology in a lot of ways, and I kind of in my own ways see ways that I want to improve upon it or utilize it in different ways specifically as it pertains to entertainment. So I really want to be more involved in that world and start developing the actual technology. Hardware, software...

DanielleTBD: Are you considering developing your own web content or original series?

Z.L.: I am, but I think that-- I disagree with a lot of people as far as what’s actually good and what’s not. I think networks and studios have tried their hand in webisodes and they continue to try, and I applaud them for that. But I personally think that they’re kind of going about it in the wrong way. I don’t believe in four minute webisodes.

D: But if you’re doing it and you’re developing your own you can do whatever you want.

Z.L.: Sure, sure, sure, yeah! And that’s one of the biggest reasons why I want to is because I want to be the first example of what is successful online. You know, I think that as human beings we put a value on something based on the value that comes with it. And if somebody offers you something that doesn’t seem to have that much value because it’s only four minutes long, you go 'Well, thanks, but no thanks.' And how do you really track a story through that?...It’s like going to Starbucks, and you go and there’s, like, the free sample sitting up there that you’re like-- you have no idea what it is; you may or may not want it; you don’t know. But you look up at the menu and there’s a brand new, giant five dollar drink, you go-- you’re immediately intrigued-- you go, 'What the hell is that thing that costs five dollars, that must be amazing!'

D: Right.

Z.L.: And, by the way, maybe it is; maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s not your cup of tea.

D: But you’re willing to take a chance.

Z.L.: Sure, absolutely. And to me, I think that especially with like prosumer technology being what it is now that almost anyone can shoot whatever they want, wherever they want; you can edit it yourself; you can really make incredible stuff. And you can make it a half hour long. You can make it an hour long. And by the way, not 22 minutes with 8 minutes commercials, an actual half hour. Not 44 minutes with, uh...

D: We’re at 16.

Z.L.: 16 minutes of commercials! Math, math, math.

D: Vacation, it’s okay!

Z.L.: But an actual hour. Oh, by the way, an hour and a minute! Or an hour and two minutes! Or 58 minutes! You know, there are certain constraints on network television that don’t apply to online. Especially if you’re actually selling it. You say, hey if you want this to stick around, you buy it. And if nobody buys it, then it doesn’t stick around. But if you do buy it, it does stick around and to me one of the biggest-- honestly, one of the biggest kind of factors in my philosophy on this was and is Chuck. It’s a show that internationally conservatively ten million people watch. Conservatively. Globally and not just domestic. So lets say ten million people watch globally in a whole myriad of ways, downloading, Hulu, Netflix. Long story short, I really believe in the model and I have for the last, even before I did Chuck, you know for the past seven years or so I’ve been drumming it to my friends and everyone who would listen and then slowly I’ve seen the tide turning I’m like I’m not crazy! I’m not crazy.

D: But in saying that, I mean you said you see what you like and what you don’t like, so let's say you’re developing a series for online, what would you want it to be, in order to make it successful?

Z.L.: Well, honestly what I would do is I’d start with really hitting the demographic that consumes online solely or not solely, but like just the most. And to me...what I would do, I would want to do a movie or a series that’s like me and Jared Padalecki and Nathan Fillion and Seth Green and...

D: Well, shit! Yes!

Z.L.: But by the way, us guys, we don’t get a whole ton of love in Hollywood.

D: No, but I’m saying it doesn’t matter because everybody would buy that.

Z.L.: See I believe so!

D: Because everybody between your fandoms--

Z.L.: Exactly. And we have all these fandoms and I fully believe in the next five years it’s really going to come down to that...I’ve talked to Nathan and Seth about my kind of further reaching ideas. I’ve talked to Jared in passing a little bit. But he’s been doing Supernatural and Nathan’s going to be doing Castle for a while still. I mean Seth and I are both-- you know, we’ve talked alot about taking over the world. And l love what he’s accomplishing and what he’s already accomplished with Robot Chicken and Stupid Monkey and he’s got a great deal with YouTube going on. I really believe that we are moving into a time in entertainment and technology where anybody really could do whatever the hell they want to do. It just really helps if you’ve had or continue to have a following that Hollywood is bolstering. So I’ll continue to do the Hollywood thing-- I want to. I want to do studio films. I want to work with guys like Clint Eastwood and George Clooney or whatever. Until I can get myself to a place where I can make my own content and sell my own content to not just my fanbase but to Jared’s and to Seth’s and to Nathan’s and to Felicia Day’s and to whomever else that kind of exists in that universe where collectively you have millions. You know, millions. And not only that, but what social networking has allowed is a form of communication and marketing that has never existed before that by the way some actors, some stars, some celebrities don’t utilize because they’re giant. But I think they’re kind of missing out. Because I think that it is the best way to communicate what you want and how you feel and to continue communication with your fanbases and keep them pumped and excited and give them insights into your life...

[Editor's Note: Here we took a singing break. Yes, seriously, and no, I will not be sharing the audio.]

D: So you’re not looking at pitches right now? To start this right now? Not that I’m trying to pitch you anything but--

Z.L.: Well, no. I mean, yes and no. I mean, honestly, because it’s been a vision and a dream of mine for some time, I was really just waiting for this chapter of life to close. I have a little bit of time to just breathe, go on vacation, play some video games, which I’ve done a shit ton of. And then also continuing to throw my hat in the ring when it comes to Hollywood and projects and you know, maybe Broadway. They’re not mutually exclusive is what I’m saying. I mean, I think that it would be foolish of me to say 'All right, I’m done with that, I’m going to go do this.' It’s like no, no, I can do both. I mean, I hope. And with The Nerd Machine and continuing that journey and continuing to hopefully bring to life all the vision that I have not just for, and that’s where this all started, this part of the conversation. I want to do online content through The Nerd Machine, but the reason I started with tee shirts and hoodies and things is because apparel is--

D: Easier? More immediate?

Z.L.: I mean, it’s out of my pocket. So I’m not putting out hundreds of thousands of dollars per episode. I’m putting out, you know, a couple G’s to produce some shirts and sell those shirts and recoup that cash. Slow build. Slow build. But Nerd HQ that we did last year at Comic Con was an awesome success, and we’re going to do it again next year, and we’ve already got our sponsors from last year that want to be involved, and hopefully we’ll have even more panels-- raise even more money for charity. We’re gonna go and have an awesome meeting with Microsoft in a few weeks and kind of share our vision with them and hopefully get them on board with some of the things we want to do.

The people that I’ve always respected in this business-- and not even in this business, just in the world-- are people that have vision-- are people that have a lot of different irons in the fire and are not afraid to take a chance on something that they’re passionate about. And, look, acting has always been my number one passion, since I was a little kid, it’s what I’ve always done-- it’s what I’ve always want to do-- but then as I started that journey, I realized quickly that I also liked other aspects of entertainment like writing, like directing.

D: So basically in three to five years you're going to take over the world. Or maybe it won't even take you that long.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Saying #GoodByeChuck...

Now that the tears should have cleared from the Chuck finale, I'm going to reveal something I was convinced to be true about the episode after visiting the set, talking with the stars, knowing what I did about five years' worth of spy games, and just plain speculating. I was one hundred percent convinced that Casey (Adam Baldwin) was not long for this world. Baldwin's own words to me on the finale set was that Casey got to go out with "a bang." Add that to the fact that Zachary Levi admitted one of the players wanted to "go out in a blaze of glory," and I was sure showrunner Chris Fedak was going to take Casey down in battle-- once a soldier, always a soldier, now a casualty. So when he sat down in Beckman (Bonita Friedericy)'s office and said "I'm ready to go," I immediately thought: "No, Casey, don't do it!" That would have been some on the nose foreshadowing. And then when Chuck shot into the air and hit the helicopter, I saw another near miss that was only going to lead up to a bigger, much more emotional end. But thankfully, that was one aspect of the show about which I was wrong.

Going into this two-hour, back-to-back series finale with Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) not quite herself was a little bit of a let down. Not because I obviously wanted to see Chuck and Sarah ride off in the sunset, so to speak, and finally get their dream house by the end (because that would have been a cheap fast-forward), but because it felt like false stakes. Knowing this show as we do, it was obvious there was no way they were going to keep Sarah and Chuck apart permanently. Sure, it was tense and emotional in a different way to see Sarah resisting the memories that were starting to creep back, convinced they were not real at first and then simply out to find herself before she jumped back into anything else, but what really saved the plot point for me was the chance to sit alone with Sarah and see the story from her side for a change, even if only for a few minutes. Those DVDs where she chronicled her missions and relationship with Chuck were gold. Early on, when Sarah was still "pretending," she usually managed to keep such a cool, calm, and collected stance about her. So it was nice to finally be let in that she, too, was falling just as hard, and she just felt she had to hide it-- but thankfully not from herself.

Chuck has always been a show so in-tune with itself and its fandom, and over the years it has proven that simply by some of the guest stars they've gotten to parade through, but it was never more apparent than with all of the finale parallels to the pilot. The first scene with Chuck very clearly set up that he felt he was back in the same place as he was five years ago-- no real job, no girlfriend, heartbroken, alone, etc-- and admittedly when he said it out-loud, it kind of killed the imagery. The fact that he had a group around him at all showed how far he's come, and again, pointing it out ruined it a little. Especially when that group around him very soon started to disperse, kind of proving the point that at this chapter in their lives, it's supposed to be Chuck and Sarah's story. Together or bust.

Things will never really go back to how they were for Chuck (hell, he no longer thought Sarah was out of his league-- that in itself exhibited HUGE growth); they can't after all he has been through and all he has learned. Yet, seeing him slip on the skinny tie and pocket-protector again was giddy-inducing, and even his choice to download the Intersect one last time had a warm nostalgia to it. After everything he went through and everything he learned, he's still the same old Chuck who refuses to shoot anyone but still wants to save the day. It's always a bonus when shows can reinforce that their characters can stay true to who they are, despite their circumstances. That's continuity, but more importantly, that's life.

Besides, not giving Sarah the Intersect filled with her old memories just makes it all the more special when they return on their own. There is no "easy button" in relationships, and Chuck may have played hero for five years, but he was always a regular guy first, and regular people can't just snap their fingers and fix every little problem. She had to want to remember. And when she finally does-- in drips and droves or in a flood-- those memories will be earned, and the relationship will be that much stronger for it. There is absolutely no need to see The Vow; Chuck Bartowski had to make his wife fall back in love with him, and he did it through ways that were emotionally satisfying for all of us-- because we've been invested in this couple for five years.

The little sprinklings of flashbacks were perfect-- as were the nods to the past done in present day, such as the "check in" with Fulcrum, the return of the mariachi band (and this is coming from someone who HATES mariachi music), and of course, the tango. It was also shocking to see how far everyone has come in the last few, short years, though. The hair alone was jarring! It kind of just served as an extra special wrap-up that characters got to do what they've always wanted: Jeffster (Scott Krinsky and Vik Sahay) got to not only show that they actually do know how to find women (though I doubt they can "get" them) but also play a huge show (to a sold out, captive, but most importantly, enthusiastic crowd); Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) got to go on missions, even if inadvertently; and Morgan (Joshua Gomez) got his girl, too. There was a lot of talk about growing up in and on Chuck; Chuck himself started off as just an above averagely smart but directionless kid, but it was those around him, perhaps inspired by him, who may have changed the most in surprising ways. Casey was always such a rough, tough, rigid guy. He grunted more than he'd speak. He'd shoot before he'd talk. He'd never stand down and never surrender. But he never stopped to think that was his weakness. I couldn't understand why he'd want to go back to that, so I'm glad Morgan managed to talk some sense into him. I know, I know, we were all surprised! Here not only did he pull through for Sarah by embracing the "new" him, ultimately, he pulled through for himself. He finally gave himself a chance to be a fully-formed, well-rounded man when he decided to go after Gertrude (Carrie-Anne Moss). He may not find her-- or when he does, he may not find he wants to stay with her-- but the point is, he took the leap; he acted outside his own box. He risked, and so he shall (hopefully) be rewarded.

The one part of the finale with which I just couldn't get on board was the idea of Ellie and Awesome (Ryan McPartlin) moving away from Chuck was absolutely heart-breaking the minute it was brought up. With Sarah not herself and without indication she might ever find herself, it felt kind of glib for Ellie to even consider walking away from the kid she ultimately raised. They were always their only family, and sure, intellectually, we as an audience knew it was Ellie's way of acknowledging Chuck as a grown man who has more than come into his own and can take care of himself, but it still just felt overtly harsh. Maybe because Linda Hamilton's grandma pop in was so sweet (Awesome covering Baby Clara's eyes when grandma got a gun? Classic!), and we know that she can't do that in the mid-west, either. But mostly because though we have every intention and belief that Chuck and Sarah will be fine, they aren't quite there yet. And Chuck needs and deserves his whole support system around him. A big chunk of this episode felt like characters coming to terms with the fact that Sarah may never remember and them just being okay with that. It was almost baffling that after everything they could feel that way-- or at least give off the impression that they felt that way. Chuck may be the only one in love with her, but if they all loved her as much as they said they did-- even after she did some pretty crappy things to them (well, mostly Ellie)-- they could have put forth a little more of an effort. I'm not saying the episode needed to revolve on fixing her; they just didn't seem as disturbed as it seemed like they should have. I expected Casey to treat her like a fallen soldier and be able to just walk on, but I didn't expect that from everyone else.

The final scene on the beach was absolutely beautiful, though. It was poignant for Chuck and Sarah's story, sure, but I also mean physically: that is what Hollywood calls magic hour, and I think you can see why. And there was just something extra special in the wink and nudge to Levi's recent Disney work in the whole "Chuck's magical kiss" thing, but the truest way to tell this tale was "if Sarah doesn't remember everything right now, it's only a matter of time." I didn't see this finale as a return to "Will they or won't they" for Sarah and Chuck. In all honesty, I never saw it as "Will they or won't they" for Sarah and Chuck-- not even in the pilot. It was always a matter of when. Those two characters had such distinct, different personalities, though, that it had to be earned then, and it had to be earned (again) now. In that sense, the end was beautiful. Little things had come back to Sarah along the way, and here she was, asking to hear the story and then asking for him to kiss her. It's a good sign and a strong start on the road to re-romance. Yet, I couldn't help but wish there was one final line to drive it home, wrap it up, and stay true to Chuck's heart and humor...

So as the final scene faded out, in my head I heard Strahovski softly whisper "Chuck, you knew kung fu."

Good-bye, Chuck. I'm proud to call myself a nerd now.

The Cast of 'Chuck' Say Their Good-Byes...

There are no words. Well, at least not for me. I was a latecomer to Chuck-- a newer adopter, if you will-- and I am forever grateful to the amazing team at the show for embracing me and making it so easy and fun for me to share the end of their journey with them. Tonight is the series finale of Chuck, and after five tumultuous years, it is an hour that will make you laugh, make you cry, and of course, make you happy to be a nerd. So grab your Subway sandwiches and a box (or two!) of tissues and gather 'round NBC at 8pm tonight. There will be a lot to discuss afterwards, and you know this cast is never at a loss for words, so for now, Zachary Levi, Joshua Gomez, and Yvonne Strahovski say their good-byes:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tonight's TV Talk: 'The Big Bang Theory', '30 Rock', 'Parks and Recreation', and 'Archer'...

TV Talk for Thursday, January 26th 2012

The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 8pm) - S5, Ep14: "The Beta Test Initiation" - 101 episodes in, I think we all learned something new about Sheldon (Jim Parsons) tonight: he has a whimsical side! His interest in flags, whether new or not, brought out a side of him that, dare I say it? Actually was fun! I wouldn't necessarily want to watch a 52-week vodcast about flags (and why 52 weeks? There are 50 states but literally hundreds more countries, each with their own flags, not to mention school, sports teams, etc...), but I would like to watch a vodcast where he and Amy (Mayim Bialik) act things out with puppets. Just go with it. Meanwhile, Raj (Kunal Nayyar) actually having conversations with Siri was just plain sad. I mean, I don't doubt that it has been happening since that technology was developed, but it's still sad. And I didn't think Raj was that bad off. He didn't even have to get drunk first to feel comfortable talking to the phone-- and I don't mean because he can't talk to attractive women sober, I just mean because no one has conversations with inanimate objects sober! Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) are a couple I have rooted for from the beginning, but there is no excuse for a smart, modern guy like Leonard not learning from the list mistake of Ross Gellar on Friends... Misstep aside, I'm happy to see that she still finds him adorable and that he's still willing to go outside his comfort zone for her. I just wish it was a little clearer what the intentions were for that couple. I'd hate to get too invested in them again if they're just going to break up again in a few episodes.

30 Rock (NBC, 8pm) - S6, Ep3: "Idiots Are People Three!" - Will Arnett may be on a new NBC sitcom that the network is actually cultivating, but when he popped up here tonight he spoke some disparaging truths about NBC being the Titanic (the ship). And I've sincerely missed this kind of commentary from this show. They take on their on network; they take on their own stars' pitfalls; they take on the insanity of comedy as a genre in general. I love it. I loved how Jack (Alec Baldwin) got sucked into yet another crazy scheme (this time for Devon) but only because he still holds tight to those deep-seated values of getting ahead in business at all costs-- even at what he thought was the cost of his own kid's own future, but most importantly I loved the fact that this show is smart enough to realize and point out that it is how hard you work at making yourself better that truly separates the idiots from the successes. I have no reason to believe Jack wouldn't have a complete heart attack if his daughter actually did have to go to public school, but that could lead to a fascinating episode down the line. Certainly much more interesting than the Best Friends Gang. Yikes, Grammar; just yikes. Though the episode still focused on Tracy (Tracy Morgan)'s own missteps in his insensitive rantings, in the end, even he wasn't an idiot in the truest sense of the word. He rejected Denise Richards' advances, and we have to give him some credit for the brains required for that. James Marsden may be Dennis Duffy 2.0, but I'm also glad he's sticking around. He has such a great smile and even better eyes, and he brings out a much more fun side to Liz (Tina Fey). You could argue that he's dumbing her down, but I like to think he's bringing out her less critical side. Though if she ever gets on board with the Entourage movie, we may have to call in an intervention. Also, I want a subordifriend. Inquire within...

Parks and Recreation (NBC, 8:30pm) - S4, Ep13: "Bowling For Votes" - I was really hoping it would be Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) to finally crack April (Aubrey Plaza), but if she couldn't do it, I guess the next best bet would have been Chris (Rob Lowe). The tag of this episode should have been a line-o-rama of April's weird adaptable phone voices. But not only does he clearly challenge her to actually try in ways Leslie should be he actually inspires her to care, too. That's a huge accomplishment. If April and Andy (Chris Pratt) weren't so darn cute, I'd want her to get more screentime with Chris. After all, he clearly needs some love. He's so darn cute, I don't know why he doesn't get more of it! Overall, though, this episode was weird for me. I was completely thrown off-guard by not being in the Pawnee offices; Tom (Aziz Ansari) was wearing gold shoes; Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) was actually not perfect at something; Leslie was trying desperately to make a misogynist love her. I don't know, it just felt like bizarro-Pawnee. But it did breed one of the best lines to ever come out of NBC (courtesy Ron Swanson, of course): "When I eat, it's the food that's scared."

30 Rock (NBC, 9pm) - S6, Ep4: "The Ballad of Kenneth Parcell" - I still can't believe Maulik Pancholy chose Whitney over 30 Rock-- larger part or not. And I like to think 30 Rock can't believe it either, hence tonight's reference. Also a perfect (and coincidentally topical) reference? Demi Moore utilizing leeches for her skin. Or maybe to lose weight. But mostly I can't believe after all of this time, Liz (Tina Fey) and Jenna (Jane Krakowski) are still having the same fights. Sure, Jenna is more marginally famous now that she is also hosting a kids' talent show, but Liz has always known she is crazy and has alternatingly put up with it and blew up because of it. The final straw couldn't have been a little red paint on what I assume was not even her coat. But since this time around it caused Liz to declare she was looking for a new best friend, I went with it anyway. Even though we all know Jack (Alec Baldwin) is her real new best friend. Because I wanted to apply, even if it was reality show style. It's always only a matter of time before Liz comes around to Jenna, so what I really wanted to see was Amanda and Steffy making their own amends. I had this image of Steffy in my head as a struggling performance artist, maybe not unlike Maureen from RENT. Also, after all of these episodes, this was the first time we saw Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) without his page uniform on, right? It was weird and cold, and I didn't like it.

Archer (FX, 10pm) - S3, Ep5: "El Contador" - Is it terrible of me to say I was hoping Cyril (Chris Parnell) would crash and burn in the field? I mean, he wasn't entirely cut out for this line of work, but he certainly thought on his feet faster than Archer himself (H. Jon Benjamin) ever could. It was almost impressive, which I just found unfortunate. I have to admit, with Cyril doing half-decently, despite Parnell's dozen jobs, my money is now on Ray (Adam Reed) to be the one who perishes this season. Without him out in the field, he seems to be a bit useless. That is not a commentary on all characters in wheelchairs, so please don't send angry emails, but it is indicative of him, a spy who can't quite be stealthy or inconspicuous anymore, as we quite hilariously saw last week with the handicapped van chase sequences. Tonight Ray (along with Pam and Cheryl) was relegated to a funny but apropos of nothing subplot about drug testing at ISIS and the much more sinister testing that one of their own likes to do. It felt a little out of place when held up against the backdrop of the poignant field mission. Come on, drug trafficking, hunting humans for sport, and Archer having to play second fiddle to Cyril? That's BIG stuff. Lana (Aisha Tyler) may have ill feelings toward Cyril for his "not-real sex addiction," but I don't know, working alongside him in the field may have her seeing him in a whole new light. Of course, she'll still have to save his ass once in a while, but that's really a given. She clearly is the most competent one on the whole team. I'd actually love to see an episode going home with her to learn exactly why she still sticks it out with the rest of the yahoos! Actually, I'd also like to see an episode going home with Krieger (Lucky Yates). He's just the right kind of twisted!

From LA Examiner: Paley Center Honors 'Bones' & 'Cougar Town'; Mark Pellegrino On...Everything; Lucy Lawless Slips Back Into 'Xena' For Her Fans...

"The Paley Center for Media to honor Cougar Town & Bones this spring"

Earlier this month The Paley Center for Media announced their 2012 honorees for their annual PaleyFest celebration in Los Angeles, but this morning it appears that another show has been added, along with a very special public program... [MORE]

"Q&A: Mark Pellegrino’s returns to Supernatural, Being Human & what about Major Crimes?"

As if Mark Pellegrino doesn’t have enough on his plate working on the seventh season of Supernatural, the final season of The Closer, and reappearing in the second season of Being Human, he also appeared in the final episode of Chuck and will guest star on an upcoming episode of Castle (more on that soon). That’s more than enough to keep an artist creatively fulfilled, right? But Pellegrino doesn’t want to stop there. In order to work with his family and feed his ambitions even more, he is producing a series of short films that his wife will be directing. Where does he find the energy!? Pellegrino found some time to chat with us about all of his upcoming television gigs... [MORE]

"Lucy Lawless to headline Creation Entertainment's Xena fan convention in LA"

Xena: Warrior Princess may have gone off-air in 2001, but its fandom is still going strong! And wouldn't you know it? The talent from the show still shows up to support what, for many of them, made them a household name. This upcoming weekend in Los Angeles marks The Official Xena: Warrior Princess Fan Convention from Creation Entertainment, starring none other than Jennifer Sky, Renee O'Connor, Timothy Omundson, and Lucy Lawless (to name a few)! ... [MORE]